On Leave by Daniel Anselme
A Novel

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Anselme’s 1957 “On Leave” — now translated by the estimable David Bellos — follows three soldiers in Paris on a 10-day leave. In style and particularly in spirit, it resembles the early works of Aldous Huxley...with their combination of lightness and intellect, their strong ethics and unexpected tenderness.
-NY Times

Synopsis

A long-lost French novel in which three soldiers return home from an unpopular, unspeakable war

When On Leave was published in Paris in 1957, as France's engagement in Algeria became ever more bloody, it told people things they did not want to hear. It vividly described what it was like for soldiers to return home from an unpopular war in a faraway place. The book received a handful of reviews, it was never reprinted, it disappeared from view. With no outcome to the war in sight, its power to disturb was too much to bear.
Through David Bellos's translation, this lost classic has been rediscovered. Spare, forceful, and moving, it describes a week in the lives of a sergeant, a corporal, and an infantryman, each home on leave in Paris. What these soldiers have to say can't be heard, can't even be spoken; they find themselves strangers in their own city, unmoored from their lives. Full of sympathy and feeling, informed by the many hours Daniel Anselme spent talking to conscripts in Paris, On Leave is a timeless evocation of what the history books can never record: the shame and the terror felt by men returning home from war.

 

About Daniel Anselme

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Daniel Anselme was born Daniel Rabinovitch in 1927, and adopted the name Anselme while serving in the French Resistance with his father. Anselme traveled widely as a journalist, and was known as a raconteur and a habitué of Left Bank cafés. A vocal protester of France’s war with Algeria, he addressed the war in On Leave (1957), his first novel. Anselme published a second novel, Relations, in 1964; ran the journal Les Cahiers de Mai from 1968 to 1974; and was one of the leaders of Solidarity Radio in Paris in 1981–82. He published a semiautobiographical account of his wartime experiences called The Secret Companion in 1984, and died five years later in Paris. David Bellos is the director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, where he is also a professor of French and comparative literature. He is the author of Is That a Fish in Your Ear? (Faber, 2011). Bellos has won many awards for his translations, including the Man Booker International Prize for translation. He received the Prix Goncourt for his biography of Georges Perec and has also written biographies of Jacques Tati and Romain Gary.
 
Published March 4, 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 225 pages
Genres: War, Literature & Fiction, Professional & Technical, Business & Economics, Education & Reference. Fiction
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Critic reviews for On Leave
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jan 06 2014

This new translation of author and journalist Anselme’s first novel (his second and last was 1964’s Relations) not only introduces the English-speaking world to a forgotten classic, little-read since its 1957 debut, it fills the surprising silence in French literature regarding the Algerian War.

Read Full Review of On Leave: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Martin Riker on Mar 14 2014

Anselme’s 1957 “On Leave” — now translated by the estimable David Bellos — follows three soldiers in Paris on a 10-day leave. In style and particularly in spirit, it resembles the early works of Aldous Huxley...with their combination of lightness and intellect, their strong ethics and unexpected tenderness.

Read Full Review of On Leave: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

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